Chicken Tonnato

Here is a simple and alternative version of the famous Italian dish vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce).  The original dish calls for a cooked veal roast to be chilled, sliced very thin and robed with a tuna sauce made with fresh eggs, oil, tuna, capers, lemon juice, mustard, anchovy and olive oil. It is absolutely delicious but quite a bit of trouble.  This version is simpler to do without sacrificing flavor and I prefer to make it with sliced poached chicken breasts.  We like to eat this on a summer evening alongside fresh asparagus and a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad.

Chicken Tonnato

Serves 6


6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small white or yellow onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water
4 cups fresh arugula, trimmed and washed
Tonnato Sauce (recipe below)
Extra capers or snipped chives for garnish


In a deep skillet or a large saucepan, combine the onion, carrots, celery, bay leaf, salt, pepper and water.  Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer it for 5 minutes.  Add the chicken breasts to the water, return the water to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Cover the pan tightly with its lid, turn off the heat and leave it alone for at least 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth to a cutting board and let it cool.  When cool, slice the chicken into crosswise slices and arrange on a bed of arugula on individual plates or a platter.  Spoon some tonnato sauce over the chicken and pass the extra separately.

For the Tonnato Sauce:


1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons capers, drained
6 anchovy fillets, minced
1 6-ounce can tuna, packed in oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of water (if needed)
2 tablespoons of brandy (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, capers, anchovies, tuna and lemon juice.  Add the brandy if using, and combine.  Check the consistency so that you have a nice spoonable sauce.  If you need to thin it, add the tablespoon of water.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  The sauce may be made ahead and chilled until time to serve and will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

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One Response to Chicken Tonnato

  1. Pat Palmer says:

    I tried this recipe the other day, and we liked it very much. I plan to post this on my blog later this week.

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